An incredible contemporary garden with hidden secrets, including the world’s largest treehouse!
Home to the largest treehouse in the world, the two events venues in this 21st century garden offer a number of options for weddings, parties and corporate gatherings managed by a close-knit team of three. We talk to marketing manager Tracy Cullen.
When did you start your venue business and what is its history?
Created by the Duchess of Northumberland with the build starting in 2000, The Alnwick Garden is a 12 acre modern garden combining sculptures, water features, beautiful plants, cafes, a restaurant and two outstanding wedding venues.
The garden is adjacent to Alnwick Castle and has a long history under the dukes of Northumberland, but fell into disrepair until revived at the turn of the 21st century. It now belongs to a charitable trust, which is separate from Northumberland Estates, although the 12th Duke of Northumberland donated the site and contributed £9 million towards redevelopment costs.
Tell us about your location and site
Situated in Alnwick, in the picturesque rural county of Northumberland, The Alnwick Garden is a visitor attraction, a place to eat and drink and a place to celebrate weddings and events surrounded by natural beauty. It contains the largest collection of European plants, the largest Japanese cherry orchard in the world, the infamous Poison Garden, and the largest treehouse in the world, which incorporates a restaurant and doubles as a wedding venue.
For weddings and events in the main garden, couples and organisers get exclusive access to the event space, the Pavilion Room, which features a stunning grid shell roof and was designed by Hopkins Architects. They also get access to a section of the Atrium, the East Terrace, and once the garden closes to the public, exclusive access to the whole site. All guests can explore and enjoy the different areas, from the Chinese Bamboo Labyrinth, the Grand Cascade with its half-hourly water displays, to the opulent Rose Garden with heady scents wafting in the summer breeze.
With something for all seasons, Alnwick Garden is a treasure trove of delightful flora and fauna where the most amazing photographs can be captured.
The major challenge is ensuring privacy for wedding couples whilst the garden is open to the public and we do this by cordoning areas, such as the section of the Atrium and East Terrace and the front of the Pavilion, so there are no passers-by peering in.
Just outside of the garden’s perimeter wall is The Treehouse, which was designed by Napper Architects, Newcastle. Completed in 2005, it is built around 16 mature lime trees, which grow through and into the building. It is made from a combination of Siberian larch, Scandinavian redwood, Canadian cedar and Scots and English pine, all from sustainable sources.
Offering exclusive access to three function rooms, it is the largest tree-top building of its kind in the world and features a large expanse of decking and two wobbly rope bridges. There is truly nothing more special than getting married in front of a roaring log fire or, in the warmer months, on the sun-soaked decking. It is a one of a kind venue, with twisting branches and twinkling fairy lights making it a rare delight.
Weddings at the Treehouse can host up to 65 guests for an inside ceremony, 85 guests for an outside ceremony, weather depending, and 120 guests for an evening reception. Exclusive hire is included in whichever package a customer chooses, so guests can explore the incredible structure whilst enjoying a glass of champagne 60ft above the ground.
What facilities for outdoor functions do you offer?
Ceremonies can be hosted outside in our arbours or inside the event space, followed by a drinks reception on our open air terrace. For larger bookings, the Atrium is used for dining and has removable glass panels.
What services do you offer?
The Alnwick Garden can host weddings, corporate events, private dinners, and birthday and anniversary celebrations. The arbours can host weddings for up to 70, the Atrium can host a ceremony of up to 200 and the Pavilion 180.
The Pavilion is a very flexible corporate event space too, offering capacity of 200 theatre style, 80 classroom and 100 boardroom.
Catering is provided in-house, but we are happy to accept outside caterers on occasions where special menus, such as Asian food, are required. For larger functions we can accommodate marquees on the lawn too.
Our wedding and events team is on hand to help plan all events and will be there on the day of the event too.
Describe how you researched and sourced your structures
The Duchess of Northumberland wanted to create a garden like no other. She did not want to replicate gardens that could be found elsewhere. Designers were chosen that would be sympathetic to the surrounding countryside that was developed by the renowned Capability Brown who died some 300 years ago.
How do you work with your customers to make their event unique?
We take a very personable approach with our customers from initial correspondence to show rounds, and then further meetings in person and communication by phone or email. We encourage our customers to get in touch whenever and share the details of their plans with us.
The planning and organising is carried out by a small team who work very closely together and are on hand seven days a week. There is also someone from the planning team on hand on the day of the event too.
How do you publicise yourself?
We use social media channels – on Facebook we are @weddings and events at alnwick garden, and Instagram @wedding_events at alnwick garden. We obviously have our own website www.alnwickgarden.com
We also advertise on other platforms such as Hitched, Bridebook, Visit Northumberland, Wedding Dates, and Venue Directory.
How would you describe your style or unique selling point?
As mentioned above, Alnwick Garden is a contemporary garden featuring the Grand Cascade, Labyrinth, and Cherry Blossom Orchard and also many water features such as rills and pools, so there are amazing opportunities for stunning photographs.
Delicious menus have been created using locally sourced produce and are complemented by attentive and experienced staff to ensure the event is a success.
How has Covid-19 impacted you?
As a business we have utilised the furlough scheme where necessary but have also had a member of the team on hand to answer any of our customers’ enquiries and move dates accordingly. It has been important to be available for our customers in these uncertain times and help where we can.
As we are a garden and charity, and not just a wedding venue churning out wedding after wedding and being overused, we have been in a unique position to have availability and also pick up short-lead time weddings now confidence is back and people are looking to book.
We have also adapted by providing virtual show rounds via Zoom. This has proved very popular and we have secured a lot of weddings this way.
How large is your team?
We are a team of three comprising a sales and marketing manager, a wedding and events co-ordinator and an assistant wedding and events coordinator. We are a tight-knit trio who support each other and consistently go the extra mile to ensure our customers’ events are second to none. We are a mixture of personalities from a protective momma bear to theatrical performers who have the same goal and ambition for the business and who love to get together with a glass of prosecco or three!
Have you worked with any industry bodies or consultants?
We have utilised the UK Wedding Task Force information and found this very helpful.
What are your plans for next season?
Keep the momentum going and providing our usual exemplary service.
Describe your average day mid-season
An average day is dealing with daily enquiries and showing customers around the Garden Pavilion and The Treehouse. Then there is the liaising with wedding couples and answering any enquiries they may have and working on their planning files to produce function sheets.
What do you enjoy about the business?
We all love meeting new people and getting to know them. We love the interaction with our couples and forming that bond of trust that gives them reassurance that we will look after them and make their event special.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Having great facilities is obviously key but customers will instantly like or dislike your sales team. Having the correct staff from selling and planning to delivering the events is paramount. Look after your staff and they will look after you and your customers.
The Alnwick Garden
Northumberland NE66 1YU